If you haven’t heard about the latest blogging plagiarism scandal, suffice to say that one reviewer plagiarized from over fifteen bloggers, posting the reviews to her personal book blog and Goodreads account. The reviews on her blog have been deleted but many remain on Goodreads, some “reworked” since she was confronted but still clearly plagiarized. If you want more information, it’s readily available, but my main point is not to continue shaming the plagiarizer–as tempting as that is. Instead I want to talk about how it feels to be the one whose work has been plagiarized, something I thought would never happen to me.
If we don’t all know that plagiarizing is wrong, we should. And frankly, many plagiarizers in the blogosphere exhibit behavior that indicates they do know it’s wrong; they attempt to hide their tracks by “mixing” reviews from multiple sources, delete the evidence when confronted, issue apologies saying they knew and did it anyway. Despite the many reasons plagiarizers give, I still really have no idea what drives them to copy other bloggers’ work. The payoff is little. Any pressure to post certain types of reviews or a specific number of reviews per week is all in their minds. Any prestige they gain as a blogger is lost instantly when their plagiarism is discovered. So if knowing plagiarism is wrong and knowing doing it has practically no benefit doesn’t stop people, I hope posts like this, where victims of plagiarism say how terrifying and awful and angering it is to have their intellectual work stolen, will make someone stop before they plagiarize.
My first reaction to the whole ordeal was a sinking feeling of dread and suspicion. A lot of the evidence had been deleted before I was aware of the plagiarism, but I did a little digging and was able to find the plagiarizer had recently reviewed a book I had–a book that has only about 30 reviews on Goodreads. The chances she had stolen mine seemed high, and I was scared. I have never been plagiarized before. I had no idea what to think or what to do if my suspicions were founded. I almost didn’t want to look, but I did and quickly realized I had been right to be suspicious.
Cue feelings of horror, disbelief, and a bit of hilarity. Am I even “popular” enough as a blogger to plagiarize? Is this particular review even good enough to be worth stealing? Is this some twisted sort of honor? Any impulse to laugh died when I started reading the plagiarized review, though, because it’s just weird to see your words twisted and posted as someone else’s. The plagiarizer had taken my review, my thoughts and opinions, and attempted to make them hers by adding phrases like “these characteristics remind me of my little sister.” MY OPINIONS OF THE PROTAGONIST REMIND HER OF HER LITTLE SISTER??? The more I read, the more twisted it seemed and the sicker I felt.
When I finished, I tried to do all the rational things. I had someone else read the review to see if they saw the blatant copying that I did. I tried reading all the Twitter threads to see how the other bloggers who have been plagiarized had reacted. I tried to find a way to contact the plagiarizer politely–and initially ran into a wall. The worst thing after finding my words had been stolen was finding that I might never be able to confront the plagiarizer because her Goodreads profile had been made private, her blog reviews deleted, and her Twitter account closed. I wanted to know why I was plagiarized. And it looked as if I’d never have the chance.
I eventually did find an email address on the plagiarizer’s blog. I have emailed her and am waiting for a response. However, I have since learned more about the situation and have seen the responses she sent to other victims–and I think I will never be satisfied. She explained to them she felt she needed to post reviews on a schedule and felt she needed her reviews to be longer. But this doesn’t make sense to me, and it doesn’t seem enough. These reasons are superficial, and they can’t take away the feelings of fear and anger and hurt. I wasted hours of my life trying to track down the plagiarized review, trying to find ways to contact the plagiarizer, trying to figure out what was going on with my review and the other bloggers’ reviews. I will never get this time back.
So if plagiarizing ever seems like a good option to you, remember that the work you are stealing belongs to real people and that you’re “helping” yourself only by hurting them.
UPDATE: The reviewer replied to my email assuring me she means to take down any lingering reviews soon. She explained she liked my review and thought by copying it she might eventually be able to review in a similar style on her own. While I’m glad her response was calm and polite, I can’t help but feel skeptical, knowing she kept plagiarized reviews even after she had initially been confronted by other bloggers. I think her suggestion she might delete her entire Goodreads account stems mostly from shame and the knowledge major bloggers have been spreading the word about just how far her plagiarism reached. I worry that, if major bloggers and large numbers of bloggers were not “behind me” in this situation, I would receive much less closure. Being plagiarized can be scary particularly for bloggers who don’t know if the weight of the blogging community will be behind them. While on one hand I shy away from vigilante type justice and mass shaming of “bad bloggers,” I also worry that this can be the most effective way to deal with plagiarizers who may otherwise feel themselves immune from consequences.
UDPATE 2 (9/5/15): The reviewer has a new blog and continues to plagiarize, though she seems to have moved on to paraphrasing more heavily so it’s less recognizable. Nonetheless, there are still whole sentences in her reviews clearly lifted from other bloggers’ work. For this reason, I have decided to name her. After sending apology emails to numerous bloggers and taking down her first blog, she has demonstrated she actually has no remorse and no respect for intellectual property. I feel readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers deserve to know she is a serial plagiarist before deciding whether to work with her. Her name is Samantha Reed, currently blogging at Reed’s Reads and Review, formerly Reeds Reviews. This post at Cuddlebuggery should give some more background, as it seems only fair to offer evidence of her plagiarism if I’m going to accuse her of it. Measures are being taken to report her newest plagiarized reviews.